Modes of Transportation – On a Snowmobile

Snowmobiles: What the Law Says

When riding a snowmobile, wearing a helmet is mandatory at all times, as is the registration of your snowmobile. You also need a valid driver’s licence to ride your snowmobile on or across a public roadway, in places where this is allowed.

In Brief

According to the Regulation defining certain words and expressions for the purposes of the Automobile Insurance Act, a snowmobile is:

“a self-propelled vehicle built for travel primarily on snow or ice, whether equipped or not with steering skis or runners and driven by an endless track in contact with the ground.”

You must be at least 16 years old to drive a snowmobile

Snowmobilers who are 16 or 17 must hold a certificate of competence and knowledgeThis document attests that a person under 18 years of age has the competence and knowledge required to operate an off-road vehicle.. The Fédération des clubs de motoneigistes du Québec has mandated the ConduiPro network of driving schools (website in French only) to provide this training and issue the certificate of competence and knowledge.

Snowmobilers who are 16 or 17 and who live in another Canadian province or in another country must hold a snowmobile operator’s certificate issued by their home jurisdiction.

Driver's Licence

As soon as you must cross a highway, a road or any other public roadway, you must hold a driver’s licence or probationary licence. It doesn’t matter what class of licence you hold, as long as your licence is valid and you abide by its conditions.

Driving on Public Roads

Driving on public roads is prohibited, other than in the few exceptional cases provided for by law.

You may cross a public road or drive on it only if:

  • a road sign allows you to do so
    and
  • you hold a valid driver’s licence or probationary licence

Vehicle Registration

You must register your snowmobile, even it you only use it on designated trails.

The licence plate must be affixed to the snowmobile.

Refer to the procedure for registering a snowmobile.

Warning

Just because your vehicle is registered doesn’t mean you are covered in the event of an accident

If you have an accident that doesn’t involve an automobile (if you run into a tree, for example), you are not covered by the SAAQ for your injuries. The fact that you paid the registration fees for your off-road vehicle doesn’t change that fact.

However, if you have an accident involving an automobile or any other vehicle operating on a public roadway, you may receive compensation for your injuries. For more information, see the section on the automobile insurance plan.

Civil Liability Insurance is Mandatory

You must hold private civil liability insurance for at least $500,000 to ensure compensation for any bodily injury or property damage caused by your vehicle.

Proof of insurance may be requested by a police officer, trail patrol officer or provincial officer. You must always have your proof of insurance with you; otherwise, you face a fine.

Trail Permits

A valid trail permit is required if you wish to drive your snowmobile on trails maintained by off-road vehicle clubs.

Trail permits are sold by the clubs in question. They can be bought in a number of locations, including at dealerships and in gas stations, convenience stores, restaurants and other stores and services with easy access to the trails.

Offences committed under the Highway safety code or the Act respecting off-highway vehicles

Offenders face:

  • fines
  • demerit points

Impaired Driving

Driving a snowmobile while impaired by alcohol, drugs or medication is prohibited.

Should you commit an impaired driving offence while riding a snowmobile, the same penalties apply as for an impaired driving offence while at the wheel of any other type of motorized vehicle.

Documents to always have with you

When operating an off-road vehicle, you must always have the following with you:

  • proof of civil liability insurance
  • the vehicle's registration certificate
  • a document that can attest to your age
  • a valid driver’s licence (if you must drive on, or cross, a public roadway)
  • your certificate of competence and knowledge, if applicable

Mandatory Equipment

For you and any passengers

Anyone operating or being pulled behind a snowmobile (such as on a sled, for example) must wear a protective helmet that complies with at least one of the following manufacturing standards: 

  • DOT FMVSS 218 (United States Department of Transportation)
  • Snell Memorial Foundation
  • ECE Regulation 22 (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe)
  • CAN-3-D230 (Canadian Standards Association)
  • Specifications for Protective Headgear for Vehicular User Z90.1 (American National Standards Institute)
  • British Standards Institute

If the helmet doesn’t have a visor, you must wear protective goggles.

For your vehicle

In addition to the mandatory basic equipment provided by the manufacturer, all snowmobiles built after January 1, 1998 must be equipped with a red rear brake light, a rear-view mirror firmly attached to the left side of the vehicle and a speedometer.

Modifying any part of a snowmobile’s muffler is strictly prohibited.

Snowmobile Speed Limits

The speed limit is 70 km/h, unless otherwise indicated.

Within 30 metres of a residence, however, the speed limit is 30 km/h, even if no sign is posted.

Useful information

Avoid making a lot of noise near populated areas

As you near populated areas, slow down so as to make less noise. Be especially careful at night (in areas where driving at night is allowed).